Jerusalema | Chicago Reader

Jerusalema

Ralph Ziman's crackling South African crime drama gives the genre a fresh political spin by showing how easily the high ideals of antiapartheid protesters might curdle into the debased populism thugs use to justify their power grabs. (“I had two heroes, Karl Marx and Al Capone,” the protagonist announces in voice-over at the outset. “I think they'd both be proud of me.”) The early scenes seem like a Soweto remake of The Public Enemy, with two kids trying to make their bones as carjackers despite the inconvenient fact that they can't drive (their first victim has to give them lessons before they can make off with his vehicle). Ten years later, they've been radicalized by the 1994 elections and moved on to Johannesburg, where the smarter and more forceful one (the charismatic Rapulana Seiphemo) launches a nonprofit housing trust that drifts into criminal activities. In English and subtitled Zulu, Khosa, and Afrikaans. 118 min.

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